Mexican food enthusiasts are familiar with the crisp and crunchy guilty pleasure of chicharrones, or fried pork rinds. But deep frying isn't the only way to hop on the nose-to-tail culinary trend that uses most parts of a delicious porker. Cueritos may be an acquired taste, but the tart, velvety soft strips of pickled pork rind are a fresh and exotic way to enjoy everything but the oink.
Find the Freshest Pork Rind
Fresh, uncooked pork rinds are easiest to find in a supermarket or butchery that has a Mexican or Latino clientele. If not, you can always ask your butcher to find some for you since it's not practical to find and peel a pig. Look for rinds that have a healthy, pink color. You can use either thick or thin cuts of the rind, but if you're new to the texture, the thinner ones may be more to your liking.
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Gather the Ingredients
As with any pickling job, you'll need clean jars with lids, vinegar, pickling mix and seasonings. A pickling mix intended for meats, such as Prague powder, contains salt, sodium nitrate and sodium nitrite. You can also make your own by adding 2 tablespoons of salt and slightly less than 1/4 teaspoon of potassium nitrate to 1 quart of water. You'll need vinegar and can flavor your cueritos with sliced onion, dried or fresh chilies and spices such as coriander and thyme. You can add slices of carrot to add a touch of sweetness and color as well.
Prepare Your Pickling Supplies
Wash your jars thoroughly, or sterilize them for extra food safey. A 6-cup jar holds 2 pounds of pork rinds and the liquid needed to cover them. Trim off any visible fat from the pork rinds. Slice the pork rinds into thin strips. The exact size is not important, but try to keep the strips as consistent in size as possible. This requires a very sharp knife, because pork rinds are tough.
Soak the Skins
This is a two-step process that takes more than a day, so plan ahead. The first part is to simmer the pickling powder and then add the pork rinds. Once they come to a simmer, cover the pot and let the pork rinds soak for at least 12 hours. Drain the pork rinds and bring another pot full of vinegar and your flavorings to a boil. Add the pork rinds and turn off the heat. Scoop the rinds into the jars and pour the vinegar over them. Cover them tightly and let them sit for at least three days. Serve them as you would any topping or in a tall glass with lime juice and hot sauce, much like you'd serve ceviche.